Hail to the low-budget weekend warriors

Published on May 9th, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
When the Melges 24 was launched in 1993, it set a high bar for one design sportboat racing and remains today a very sweet ride to sail.

I witnessed a lot of the beginning in California when I worked at the Sobstad One Design loft in San Diego, CA. The boat was designed locally by Reichel/Pugh, my boss Mark Reynolds was in the thick of its early growth, there was local fleet racing, and I was runner-up at the second U.S. National Championship in 1994.

However, soon the best sailors ramped up what it took to succeed, and the casual competitors tapped out. Local racing decreased but travel events remained an elite objective. I still have the half-model on my office wall from winning the Pacific Coast Championship in Lake Tahoe.

While activity varied around the world, the U.S. Class seemingly ran out of breath after the 2013 Worlds in San Francisco. Used boats were sold at a discount and pro sailors moved on to the J/70 Class, while local and regional racing was revived as new Melges 24 owners could compete without heightened investment.

But nothing lasts forever, and it was the 2020 Melges 24 Worlds coming to the USA that got the attention of the elite sailors to jump back in. While the pandemic cancelled the 2020 and 2021 titles, the 2022 Melges 24 Worlds is on for May 11-15 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

I got a good laugh at an event preview report which highlighted how the “Corinthian division would offer the highest recognition to Melges 24 teams, commonly referred to as weekend warriors, that are ‘low budget’ in comparison to the glossy, professionals that the press and media so adore.”

To start, I have never liked the term Corinthian in denoting non-professional teams. The word refers to the highest standards of sportsmanship, and that is no requirement for competing in the division. However, calling it the ‘Amateur Division’ likely isn’t too flattering when it means “a person who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity.” So here we are.

As for the press and media adoring the pro teams, give me a break. Don’t blame journalists for focusing on the teams that excel. If a class fears that pro teams are overshadowing the amateur efforts, and possibly impacting participation, show some leadership and change your class rules.

After 20 Corinthian teams out of 59 boats were at the 2013 Worlds, and 37 Corinthian teams out of 72 boats at the 2016 Worlds in Miami, the 2022 Worlds will have ten Corinthian teams among the 31 entrants. A pandemic hangover has likely not helped international participation as all but four teams are from either the USA (23) Canada (4).

Three-time Corinthian World Champion Niccolo Bertola (ITA) will be seeking to defend his crown. Game on!

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